New eye treatment offers hope for diabetics

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Story Updated: May 3, 2010

PADUCAH - If you or someone you love has diabetes, you know the toll it can take on your eyes.  Rlatively young, active, people discover they can no longer see well enough to drive or do close-up work.

But a new treatment for diabetic eye disease has been in clinical trial and some local folks were part of it, some of whom have their eyesight back.

Viola Allen is a long time diabetic and that has taken a toll on her eyesight. The disease affects blood vessels in the eye, causing the retina to swell.  Allen said when she came to Dr. Carl Baker  two years ago, she couldn't see at all from her left eye.

"It was very frustrating for me, because I had always been active and on my own and independent," she said.

But Allen is one of several local diabetics who became part of  Paducah Retinal Center's study of the drug ranibizumab. The drug, which is injected into the eye, makes blood vessels stop leaking.

"When we inject it into the eye it reduces leakage of abnormal blood vessels and reduces the build up of fluid in teh retina and people's retinas don't swell and vision gets better," Dr. Baker explained.

And in this study, the new procedure proved twice as effective as lasers, which have been the standard treatment for the last 25 years.

"It basically doubles their chances of being able to maintain vision to drive and vision to work," Baker said.

Allen said being a part of the study changed her life.

"This actually improved my sight, not just stopping it where it was," said Allen.  "I can get in a car and see where I'm gong - see the stop signs with no problem at all."

How big is this research?  Because of the trial, the National Eye Institute will likely change its recommendation for treating diabetic edema of the eye and the drug studied here will be the new way to treat the disease.

And diabetics like Allen will be able to stay active longer.

"I don't know what I'd have done if not for Dr. Baker," she said.


For more information on The Ophthalmology Group, click here